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BA (Hons) Illustration (with Foundation year)

Course summary

Would you like to work in a field that values your creativity, your artistic talent, inventiveness and individuality? This extended course is perfect if you want a degree in Illustration but you don’t meet the standard entry requirements. 

First we prepare you for your degree during the Foundation year, bringing you up to speed with academic skills and a firm grounding in the subject. Then you can go on to do the full undergraduate degree.

This BA has an extremely broad remit, from editorial publishing through to the guerrilla activists of Street Art, from book and magazine cover-design to zines and graphic novels.

You’ll have the opportunity to develop your technical skills in drawing, printing, publishing, book-arts and object-making alongside the crucial media know-how to thrive in a swiftly developing visual culture.

At the University of East London we place an emphasis on the narratives of our lives and about responding to the world in both image and text. Every human has a story and this course is about finding and valuing you own narrative. 

Digital technology has had a profound impact on our culture, especially on the world of visual communication, but the importance of the individualised creative ‘voice’ has never been so important.

Return to campus: dual delivery

In a Covid-secure environment, enjoy learning on our state-of-the-art campuses and flex between online delivery

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Specialist equipment

You’ll be taught by professional artists and designers and have access to the best facilities in our superbly equipped workshops.

Kick-start to your career

You’ll have opportunities to take part in leading illustration competitions that will showcase your work to the professional world.

East London

You’ll be studying in east London, one of the most vibrantly creative areas in Europe, close to the established cultural hub of central London and the exciting new one in Stratford.


Karolina Chojnacka

BA (Hons) Communication and Cultural Studies

During my Foundation year, I learned study skills, step by step, in an engaging way, so when I started the full course, I was better able to focus on the theoretical content, rather than worrying about how to write essays. It was also a great chance to learn with students from different courses and backgrounds.

What you'll learn

This exciting and stimulating course will give you a practical foundation in all the varied activities within the hugely diverse world of graphic arts.

The course is underpinned by drawing and we've structured it around a series of projects that address both the practical issues that you may encounter as a professional but also the broader cultural or social-economic world that you will be moving into. 

You'll be exposed to a wide range of techniques, both direct and indirect, digital and analogue, from printmaking, painting, drawing, collage, object making, book-making, publishing and graphic novels.

We place a strong emphasis on drawing and the hand-made throughout the course.

In your first year, you’ll undertake a number of projects and workshops that teach about different sorts of materials and ways of working. In your second year, we’ll introduce you to some professional practice in ‘live’ projects.

These include the opportunity to tackle the leading ‘House of Illustration’ book illustration competition, which offers you a potential shop window in the professional world.

By your third year, you’ll be moving more from directed projects to your own independent creations as you build your own distinctive portfolios.

What you'll study and when

We consistently review our courses to ensure we are up-to-date with industry changes and requirements from our graduates. As a result, our modules are subject to change.

  • Professional Life (Mental Wealth) (Core)
  • Art & Design Workshops, Processes & Skills (Core)
  • Art & Design Studio Practice Practise & Portfolio (Core)
  • Art & Design Specialist Workshops, Processes & Skills (Core)
  • Art & Design Specialist Studio Practice & Portfolio (Core)
  • Art & Design Contextual Studies (Core)
  • Professional Life 1 (Mental Wealth) (Core)
  • Practice 1 (Core)
  • Contextual Studies 1 (Core)
  • Research into Practice 1 (Core)
  • Experimentation and Application 1A (Core)
  • Experimentation and Application 1B (Core)
  • Professional Life 2 (Mental Wealth) (Core)
  • Practice 2 (Core)
  • Contextual Studies 2 (Core)
  • Research into Practice 2 (Core)
  • Advanced Experimentation and Applications (Core)
  • Advanced Practice (Core)
  • Professional Life 3 (Mental Wealth) (Core)
  • Practice 3 (Core)
  • Independent Major Project Part A (Core)
  • Independent Major Project Part B (Core)
  • Research into Practice 3 – Graphic Design & Illustration (Optional)
  • Research into Practice 3 – Extended Research Project (Optional)

How you'll be assessed

We'll give you feedback throughout all of your practice modules. You'll document and reflect on this feedback and your learning in general in a ‘research journal’. We monitor these journals in one-to-one tutorials throughout the learning period before you submit them for marking at the end of the module.

You'll also be given the opportunity to develop assignment tasks. The two main forms of assessment for practice modules are the journal and your portfolio.

Course specification Foundation Year

How you'll learn

The aim of this course is develop you as an imaginative, confident, creative individual capable of exploit and adapting to a rapidly changing world.

The course has its own very distinct flavour because it’s not directed at or bound by the conventions of industry. We want you to give full vent to your creativity and explore all sorts of areas where your illustration skills could be used.

You’ll be taught by talented, creative individuals, too. Our academic staff, headed by Fine Arts specialist Martin Barrett, are all admired professional practitioners in their varied fields. Valerie Pezeron is an illustrator, Lesley Logue a printmaker and Mikey Georgeson is… well, a man of many parts from painter to illustrator-singer-songwriter!

As well as receiving supportive personal tuition, you’ll learn in superb facilities. We have outstanding book and journal-making equipment, a printmaking workshop, a wood and 3D workshop, plaster and casting workshops as well as a fully-equipped Mac lab and 3D laser cutting gear.
You’ll enjoy visits to galleries and museums and, even if you choose not to take up the opportunities we offer to study abroad, don’t worry. You’ll be learning amid the wonderfully vibrant creative atmosphere of east London. There could be no more stimulating setting for your studies.

Who will teach on this course

Emma McGuire

The teaching team includes qualified academics, practitioners and industry experts as guest speakers. Full details of the academics will be provided in the student handbook and module guides.

Your future career

Our Illustration graduates progress into a wide variety stimulating jobs. Some become editorial illustrators, working on magazines or designing book covers. Others go into teaching the subject themselves or working for graphic design companies.

A few have even landed jobs as technicians within the University itself. They just can’t tear themselves away from UEL’s winning atmosphere!

Preparing you for your life beyond university is key for us. Each year, we have an annual ‘Detour Ahead’ week, when leading industry figures visit us to offer invaluable insight and advice about further careers and entrepreneurship in the art and design world.

Some of our students grasp their opportunities well before they leave our course. For example, Martin Reznik, one of our outstanding graduates who is now in hot demand as a magazine illustrator, was already designing apps for a company in Los Angeles as a student.

Then there’s the story of a group of friends who set up their own company while studying at UEL.

They began as a university society, just wanting to find a way of making their own comics more visible. Now, after graduation, they’ve grown into a business, Backwards Burd, offering publishing services and giving new illustrators and artists a fresh showcase.

Explore the different career options you can pursue with this degree and see the median salaries of the sector on our Career Coach portal

You may also be interested in

  • Why study at UEL?

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  • Accommodation

  • Information Advice Guidance

Meet us in your country

Our international team travel overseas regularly to meet prospective students and attend recruitment fairs. Our academics also give regular lectures overseas and are happy to speak to prospective students. In addition, we have a large worldwide network of advisors who can provide guidance and support with applying to study at the University of East London. 

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